Director of Studies:
- Professor Susan Bayly
- Dr Helen Pfeifer
- Professor David Reynolds
- Professor Jim Secord
- Dr Edward Zychowicz-Coghill
Number of students admitted each year: 8-10
History Course information on the University Admissions Website
History Department website
Christ’s is one of Cambridge’s leading ‘History’ colleges, owing to the size and strength of its community of historians. There are around twenty-five undergraduates studying History in the college at any one time. There are also between twenty and thirty History postgraduates pursuing either Master’s or doctoral degrees each year.
Christ’s College enjoys an established and distinguished reputation for History: Quentin Skinner, Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson, Sir David Cannadine, Linda Colley, Geoffrey Parker, Sir John Plumb and Roy Porter have all, at one stage, been either students or fellows of the college.
Current Christ’s College History fellows have, collectively, a broad range of historical interests and include: Prof. Susan Bayly (Extra-European and World History; Colonialism and Empire; India and Southeast Asia); Prof. David Reynolds (Twentieth-century Britain and America); Prof. Jim Secord (social history of science since 1750); Dr Joel Isaac (American History, Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought); Dr Samuel James (Modern British Intellectual History and Political Culture); Dr Helen Pfeifer (Ottoman History); Dr Felix Waldmann (Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-century Intellectual History, and the History of Political Thought).
History at Christ’s
Every student at Cambridge must be a member of one or other of the 29 Colleges for undergraduates of the University. The course content, lectures and examinations are the responsibility of the University Faculty, and are the same for every student reading History at Cambridge regardless of their College.
Supervisions are tutorial teaching sessions in small groups – usually one-on-one, but sometimes pairs – and are one of the major advantages of a Cambridge education, since they provide individually tailored tuition and support. First-year historians study one outline paper per term (from a choice of 23) for which they write eight weekly essays of 2,500 to 3,000 words. Each week students meet with their supervisor for an hour or so to discuss their written work in detail. In addition to reading, planning and writing an essay, students attend around six hours of lectures in the Faculty every week and participate in college-based classes on historical argument and practice (HAP). The Faculty of History, besides offering a wide range of lectures, provides some teaching in the form of centralised classes. The extended essay in Part I (‘Themes and Sources’) and the Special and Specified Subjects in Part II are organised in this way and provide you with the opportunity to study with students from other colleges.
The college boasts a particularly active student-run History Society – the Seeley Society – which provides an opportunity for all members of the Christ’s historical community to socialise at talks, debates and the annual History dinner. Christ’s College academic staff are particularly engaged in the historical community both in College and across the university.
Christ’s has generous educational and travel funds, to which students can apply for support for independent study. This has enabled students to pursue research for a wide range of Part II dissertations, recent examples of which include studies of the US invasion of Grenada, women in Classical Athens, the early years of the East India Company, President Nixon’s strategy for attracting young voters, peasant crime in thirteenth-century England, and the response of Hollywood to the Great Depression. Students have received financial support for research trips to the presidential libraries of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, the Margaret Herrick Library (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood) as well as other European and British archives and libraries.
Christ’s has a specific Humanities fund entitled The Levy-Plumb Fund which awards book grants to first-year undergraduate students and study grants for second- and third-year undergraduates. These allow them to reside in College for limited periods during the vacations to undertake reading and dissertation research. Also available are Levy-Plumb Creative Arts Awards (e.g. for costs of materials, lessons, courses, other projects in visual arts, writing, composition or performing arts); awards for Humanities Research (including travel where necessary); Humanities Study Awards (for example language and culture courses: students undertaking short language courses in the University Language Centre can apply to have up to 50% of the course fee refunded by the Levy-Plumb Fund).
As well as providing students with a broad and detailed understanding of the past, a History degree from Cambridge also equips graduates with a number of key transferrable skills. In particular, leading graduate employers value Cambridge historians’ capacity to:
• research, organise and synthesise complex material quickly
• think critically about existing analyses
• communicate clearly, both orally and in writing
• meet challenging deadlines week in, week out
Recent Christ’s graduates have entered a wide range of professions, including law, public policy (civil service), banking, management consultancy, media, higher education, teaching, administration and public relations.
Isobel, Max, James, Alice and Sathya all study History here at Christ's College. They have written about their experiences studying History in their student profiles:
If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page.
Applying to Christ's
We welcome applications from all backgrounds and school types. Details and a timeline for the application process can be found on the how to apply page, and if you'll be applying from outside the UK, there is also a dedicated section for international students. The information below provides the additional details specific to applicants for History.
We expect students to have studied History as one of their post-16 subjects, but otherwise there is no ‘ideal’ combination of subjects. Successful applicants take all sorts of subjects from Mathematics and sciences, to arts and social sciences. All of these teach skills that can be useful to the undergraduate historian.
We want to admit students who enjoy reading, writing and thinking about the past in all its forms; who are willing and able to undertake independent study; who enjoy working alone and with their peers; and who relish the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate.
Pre-interview Admissions Assessment
All students applying to the University of Cambridge for History must sit a pre-interview admissions assessment called the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA). This will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 30 October 2019. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. The Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA) examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:
- All History applicants applying in 2019 must be registered to take the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA) by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered. Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
- All History applicants applying in 2019 sit the assessment on 30 October 2019.
Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year. Note that History is administered with four other subjects within the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment question booklet. Section 1 will have identical questions. Section 2 will have subject-specific questions. Please ensure you answer the appropriate question or questions for History in Section 2.
After your application is received, you will be asked to send us one essay that you feel accurately reflects your abilities and interests. This should be work which has been prepared during the normal course of your studies and has already been marked by a teacher. Your essay should not exceed 2,500 words. We recommend that you keep a copy for your own reference as it may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website (published by 20 September each year).
Applicants selected for interview in Cambridge are usually interviewed in December. Normally, you will have two subject interviews with different History fellows. One interview will include a discussion of your written work and the other will be based around a text (or texts) that you will have had a chance to study beforehand on the day of your interview. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.
We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section.
Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, our aim is to admit around 8-10 students each year in History. In recent years, the ratio of applicants to accepted offers in History at Christ’s has been roughly 4 to 1. However, the College usually attracts a field of strong applicants who are of interest to other Colleges after our places have been filled; including offers made by other Colleges, the ratio of Christ’s applicants to offers at Cambridge is therefore nearer 3 to 1.
For those selected for a conditional offer at Christ’s, the typical offer is A*AA at A-level including History, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects including History, or the equivalent for other examination systems. The precise target conditions are assessed individually, and sometimes the A* or equivalent may be specified in History.
The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications. If you will have already finished school when you apply, please see the page for post-qualification applications.
- History Virtual Classroom
- Reading advice
- Historical Association podcasts timeline
- Internet Medieval Sourcebook
- Internet Modern Sourcebook
- History HE+
- Gresham College History lectures
If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the History course in person. If you are not able to come to an Open Day, we will be happy to answer any queries you may have that are not covered by the normal literature. Please address any such enquiries by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.